I’m sure some of you are aware of the controversy around YouTube’s algorithm. In case you don’t know, YouTube is publicising channels based on the frequency of uploads and the length of videos. Don’t quote me on this but the reasoning behind this is because the more videos you upload, the more YouTube can play ads on the videos and make more money. And that I can understand, complaining that a company wants money is like complaining that porn is too graphic.
But the problem I have with the algorithm is that it means that there is no longer an even playing field for creators. The thing that got this thought ball rolling was 2 tweets. One from Shane Gill and the other from Gaijin Goombah.
And let’s begin with the one about small channels. There are thousands of small channels that are around that have marketed themselves on having high production values and a good amount of effort put into them but YouTube isn’t paying people based on the best workers, it’s paying by the hardest workers. Those small channels can’t grow because they can’t upload quickly (due to the fact they aren’t doing YouTube full time) and if they change their shows to be lower effort then they lose some of their artistic integrity and don’t want that.
Then we have the channels that are already established. We have the big channels that are staying afloat fine and will do for some time but there are not a lot of small channels that aren’t rising. And when you’re a small channel doing something that doesn’t get noticed, that’s a huge demoraliser.
And this is the part that concerns me. What happens when the big channels start to go away? What if Game Grumps went their separate ways because they got big doing their own thing? What if TeamFourStar got destroyed by copyright? What if PewDiePie became a television host? If they all go, then there will be no-one to replace them because the algorithm won’t support it. And honestly, I won’t be at all surprised if YouTube in a couple years’ time becomes irrelevant. 10 years ago, Newgrounds was the place for video uploads. Now it’s YouTube. And who’s to say the next 10 years won’t be dominated by daily motion.
The way that it’s gone recently is that there is only one "good" way for a channel to grow. Creating drama. If there are two YouTubers that attack each other online and it gets people buzzing, while it’s creativity a toxicity, it’s mutually beneficial for both channels. (h3h3 Productions and LeafyIsHere both got a jump in subscribers during the day of the mutual “RANT” videos). Then you have people like I Hate Everything who got huge drama under the Cool Cat shenanigans and then after getting through that, he had his entire channel deleted. While shitty at the time, I’m sure there’s a lot of people who wouldn’t mind going through exactly the same thing.
(Below is the Social Blade graph for I Hate Everything's Channel)
And I know all the publicity comes from shares on social media but I just want to give a contrast on that effect. About a month back I made a Game Theory parody that was very well received. Gaijin Goombah shared that video on his twitter and for a Tweet with 43 thousand followers, my video got maybe an extra 400 views and 20 new subscribers. So while sharing on social media helps, the only way to get anything significant is promoting directly from YouTube.
When it comes to my small channel, over half of those subscribers came from a larger channel that I had previously set up. And you see this all over with channels like Game Grumps showcasing animations from a bunch of people because animators have the toughest time with the algorithm. Making short animations is time consuming enough but to make long cartoon on a frequent basis is not physically possible without Warner Brother size teams.
And I’m sure some of you are thinking “Well what about Patreon”
Yes, that’s fine for the middle of the road YouTubers. The people with 100K subs benefit heavily from patreon but a small channel doesn’t have the publicity to get funding from that.
And there are channels that will help out other channels but the poor have to stand on the shoulders of giants if they ever want to see above the storm clouds.
And let’s briefly go over the other thing that may kill YouTube, the copyright and fair use clause. Now people will tell you that there are ways to bump yourself up in search engines and I tried doing this. What I was told was if you put the name of the thing you’re talking about in the description of the video as well as title, it will help you up the ladder. So I did this to my channel but I did it to only 3 of my 11 videos at the time and checked the analytics later. The videos in question were a Megaman X review, A rant about bats in video games and a review of the original Terminator. And not a couple hours after changing the description, monetisation was claimed for Metro Goldwyn Meyer on my Terminator video. And I probably got lucky on that one. Who’s to say it couldn’t be a strike or the video was banned viewing in the US. And the whole #WTFU has blown over now but the problem has not gone away.
Now, when it comes to videos, I’m not going to stop creating. Creating for me has been an addiction for most my life. I will never stop drawing, I will never stop writing and I will never stop producing videos but with such a revenue centric algorithm in place, those videos aren’t going to be published on YouTube
I don’t want YouTube to die because familiarity breed contempt but there is going to be a day in the not too distant future where someone will say “Do you remember YouTube” and the other person’s just going to reply “No”